Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover — literally or metaphorically? Tell us about a time you did, and whether that was a good decision or not.

I belong to a book/knitting club. No, it’s not such a strange combination — we chat about the books while we knit. The Type A personality in the group often has suggestions for books that I would not otherwise consider reading. So sometimes I do it reluctantly, and am pleasantly surprised. I read a lot, but like many people continue to read the types of books I usually pick out — mysteries and historical fiction and if they’re mixed together, all the better.

One of the authors I’ve gotten hooked on because I had to read it for the book club was Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. #1 Ladies Detective Agency. Loved it and have read 3-4 of his books since. The series takes place in Gabrone, the capital of Botswana. Its founder is a woman, Mma (Miss) Precious Ramotswe, and her humor and common sense are charming. I love learning about a totally different country and way of life. I never would have picked it up it not for my friend’s urging.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch was a biography I read with the group, another genre I rarely choose. He died in 2008 at age 47 from pancreatic cancer, and his actual “last lecture” was the basis for this book. He was an inspired and innovative teacher, and creator of the Carnegie-Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, a revolutionary way to teach computer programming. His last lecture is about living life to the fullest, taking chances, making the most of every experience, and the benefits of teamwork. This was the way he lived his life, creating successes and fulfilling childhood dreams, and his lecture brings people in on the secrets of how he did it. So poignant.

Another surprising and unusual book I was “made” to read was by Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair. It’s a strange assortment of character and involves time travel. This sort of novel is way out of my comfort zone, but it was an interesting and humorous experience. I think I’ll try another of his books, because at the heart of them they are mysteries — just a bit weird.

If I had just read the blurbs on the book jackets, I probably wouldn’t have chosen any of these books on my own, but returned  to what I know. It’s been interesting being pushed, by friendship, into other genre realms, and not judging a book before reading it. Sometimes I have chosen books because of the book cover comments, and have been disappointed, too.

In the other sense, I believe in the slogan, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Like everyone, I have prejudged people, for instance, and have been very surprised (and chastened) when they turned out to be different from what I’d thought. You never know from just looking at someone what their burdens and problems are, what they have to bear, or what special talents or interesting stories they may have to tell. I’ve also been amused by the fact that often when I dread going to some event, it turns out to be enjoyable, usually because I meet someone, or a number of people, who are quite interesting.

I find that age has made me far more open to new ideas, too. Age brings a certain freedom to try new things — I don’t care if people think I’m crazy or if I try something and don’t like it. There still so much to learn!